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2016 Gold Key Awards: Reality Stars

(December 2016) posted on Tue Jan 03, 2017

The latest roster of Gold Key judges offer a cheat sheet on the do’s and don’ts of hospitality design.


By Mary Scoviak

click an image below to view slideshow

The judges for the 2016 Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design (shown in the slideshow above) came up with their own definition of an f-bomb: Fake. Anything that smacked of being here today, gone tomorrow got a thumbs-down from the get-go. So did a lot of pretty spaces that weren’t backed up by the brain power to bring fresh thinking to materials palettes, floorplans and installation techniques.

W Punta De Mita
W Punta De Mita. Photo: Mark Knight Photography



In evaluating a record number of more than 500 submissions, the judging panel for HX: The Hotel Experience’s 36th annual Gold Key Awards, sponsored by Boutique Design, ranked each submission for its concept, execution, innovation and wow factor. Here’s the cheat sheet on the do’s and don’ts, straight from the judges. First, the no go’s:

1. Pressing the copy button: Projects that appeared overdesigned or templated, as well as work that seemed disconnected from its market—whether geographically, demographically or psychographically—didn't get a second look.. “Haven’t we seen something similar from this design firm before?” asked one judge, despite the fact that all entries are anonymous. What they did like were unexpected touches that were market-driven. Judge Jagruti Panwala saw the efficient footprint and modern, bright colors of TRU by Hilton as trends to watch. Judge Dane Patunoff viewed the tightly curated materials choices and clean lines of L’Horizon Resort and Spa as harbingers of the kind of resorts that are pampering but not pretentious.

2. Begging for attention: Trying to be different just for the sake of it was a deal-breaker. By the time judge John McMullen was commenting that an overly austere room “felt like a jail cell” and judge Lori Horvath was opining that, “There’s so much going on. I wouldn’t know where to look and, worse, where to go,” that project’s prospects were over. The highest marks went to submissions with a clear vision. “It’s a wow setting and the design is innovative within that context,” said judge Jay Pecotte of the Treehouse Suite at Playa Viva. Judge Edwin Hendriksen tagged projects that integrated a key element—such as a stellar street art program—with the shapes and profile of the FF&E and architectural features.


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